KENNETT >> With a pair of upstart programs squaring off against each other, somebody was going to make another statement on Friday in the Ches-Mont American high school football clash between Sun Valley and host Kennett. And this one went to the Vanguards.
Following a decisive first half, Sun Valley proceeded to hold on and turn back the Blue Demons, 21-13. With five victories in six tries this season, the Vanguards sure look like the big surprise for 2016 in the Ches-Mont.
“We are not used to winning this much,” said Sun Valley senior Ishy Ahmad. “Having guys like this who are so dedicated, it’s a big change in this program.”
Now 2-1 in the division, the Vanguards bounced back nicely from their only loss, a 24-point decision last week against Great Valley. Kennett falls to 1-1, 3-3.
“If people say we are a surprise, let’s keep surprising them,” said quarterback Gabe Boccella, who accounted for all three Sun Valley scores and added an interception on defense.
“It’s for other people to say if we are gaining respect or not,” added head coach Ray Gionta.
“All I know it we lost last week and we bounced back and had the good first half. Then we kind of hung in there and did what we had to do to somehow pull this game out.”
Comfortably ahead at the half, 21-7, the Vanguards managed just 35 yards of total offense the rest of the way. And even though Kennett made it interesting with a 70-yard scoring drive to start the third quarter, Sun Valley never let the Demons near the end zone again.
“Kennett made some adjustments and were able to move the ball better, but they only scored one time,” Gionta pointed out. “They kept us out of the end zone, but we moved it when we had to at the end.”
After rushing for a mere seven yards in the opening half, Kennett turned to bruising senior runner Connor Hyzny, and he promptly ran three times for 35 yards to set up a 35-yard pass from quarterback Jacob Dilcher to Myles Robinson. The point after attempt, however, was blocked.
“(Hyzny) is a tough runner, we decided to change what we were doing and he made a big difference,” said Kennett head coach Doug Langley.
In the final quarter, the Blue Demons were whistled twice for chop-blocks, which sabotaged one potential game-tying possession and nearly another. The second chop-block left Kennett in a third-and-23, but Dilcher hit teammate Mitchell Kosara for 24 yards to keep the drive alive inside the Sun Valley 20. But moments later, a holding penalty set the Demons back and they wound up turning it over one downs.
“We had some penalties and that hurt us,” Langley said.
“I am still not 100 percent sure what happened (on the chop-blocks), so I can’t comment until I see the film. But they were huge calls, that’s for sure, because we were moving the ball and that puts us at second and 25. It’s hard to dig out of that kind of hole.”
The Vanguards were able to use some clock when Boccella found Ahmad for a 25-yard reception in the closing minutes. And even though Kennett got one last possession, a sack by Charlie Wendling ended the threat.
“We have to play four quarters,” Langley said. “We didn’t play all that well in the first half.”
In the first half, Sun Valley burned the Demons with the play action pass, scoring two first half touchdowns against a flat-footed Kennett secondary. The first – a 13 yard pass from Boccella to Quentin West – capped a 14-play, 68-yard drive to open the scoring. The second came on the first play after a 5-yard shanked punt, and covered 48 yards from Boccella to Ahmad.
Kennett got on the board with a 30-yard second quarter scoring toss from Dilcher to Dominic D’Angelo, but Sun Valley came right back with another lengthy possession, that ended with a 2-yard keeper by Boccella. The Vanguards threatened to extend the lead after a Kennett fumble on the ensuing kickoff, but Jose Rodriguez recovered a fumble with Sun Valley at the 5-yard line.
“Unfortunately, we turned it over right after we got a turnover,” Gionta said. “If not for that it might have been a different game.”
In all, Boccella was an efficient 6-for-11 for 142 yards through the air. And Wendling gained 53 of his 85 rushing yards in the first half.
“You have to earn everything on the field,” said Ahmad, who finished with three catches for 91 yards.
“We knew heading into this season that teams were going to doubt us, but we also know how good we can be and the level we can play at.”